The Secret to Getting Referrals

Have you seen those signs in doctor’s offices that read, “The best compliment you can give us is a referral?” Some say this is a great way to get referrals. Simply asking for one.

I’ve also heard “healthcare marketing professionals” suggest that doctors ought to spend time in the community networking with other physicians like OB/GYNs, neighboring schools, daycares or any other person that can send a patient our way.

At Salud Pediatrics, we’ve done all kinds of things… for example, we’ve sent out letters to OBs, we’ve stopped by to say hello at daycares and also dropped off a few business cards at the local pharmacy.

But I wonder… are all these suggestions the right approach? Is doing all those things the best way to get referrals?

Let’s think about this… why would someone agree to refer a patient to you or to your practice? What is so special about your office? Is your Prevnar better than the other doctor’s Prevnar? Is your Amoxicillin more powerful than the one that is prescribed at the local retail clinic? Are patients going to refer to your doc because he wears a Mickey Mouse bow tie or because your waiting room is decorated with trains?

Those are all nice things, I suppose; but are they enough to help people decide whether or not to refer patients?

Think about some of the places, restaurants, vacation destinations or other professionals you’d be happy to refer your family, friends and acquaintances. What was special about them?

Let’s take your favorite restaurant as an example. What is it about that place that that makes you want to tell others about it and to encourage them to go?

Is it the way the servers dress? Is it the decoration? If it is food? Is it the peanuts shells on the floor? Is it the friendliness of the staff? Is it the size of their huge beer jug? Is it because it is cheap and good or because it is expensive and fancy?

My guess is that it could be one thing our all of those things. Who knows. But the constant is always the same; which is, the place is remarkable in some way. Otherwise, you wouldn’t bother referring anybody. Right?

Therefore, the real secret to getting the most referrals…. ready?

…you have to be remarkable is some way.

Thus, our focus should not be on getting the word out so much (although getting the word out is important), but rather working on being worth remarking about.

One last thing… most doctors that I know will say that their quality of care is better, thus that is what sets them apart. Perhaps.

But we know that statistically speaking, every single doctor’s quality of care can’t be superior. I mean, if everybody is super, then nobody is.

So if your quality of care sets you apart, then it ought to set you apart. It has to be evident, obvious, and noticeable. Otherwise, unless that person is your friend, why would anybody else refer to someone that is, at best, average?

Godin says, “the only thing that will make you remarkable is being worth remarking about.”

So here is the challenge. Take a look at every aspect of your practice. Everything from the way you provide care (if you’re the doc) to how the practice answers the phone to how letters get sent out in the mail and see what is remarkable and what is not. Separate the average from the worth remarking about.

Then, all you need to do, is get to work.


  1. Great blog! As a pediatric dentist, I have really enjoyed reading through all of the blog posts.


    • Thank you very much for your kind words.

      Although I work at a pediatrician’s office, many of principles discussed on this blog are universal small business type principles which can be applied to many if not all small business.